Jean Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), 15th century playwright
Many if not most businesses are faced with the unenviable task of informing employees that they must share more of the financial burden of health care costs a difficult pill to swallow for even the most realistic of workers.
As employees become more financially responsible for their health care, they want information to help them understand where their money is going. This is good, because it helps them think more like a business and brings them face-to-face with the real cost of their care.
The question is this: Is there relevant, reliable information available to help them assume more responsibility and make the transition smoother? The answer is yes, and you can help them find it.
It’s important to keep in mind that, as an employer, you don’t have to carry the educational burden alone most health insurance management companies have resources that can help you communicate with your employees.
In fact, it’s in the insurer’s best interest to keep people healthy and help demystify the health care system. Many of these companies have done a great deal of research in these areas and would be happy to share with you the tools and information they have available for your work force.
One of the strongest motivators for changing employee behavior (regarding health care responsibility) is cost. Employers have known this for a long time, but it’s actually a new experience for many employees.
Health insurers can give your employees access to powerful tools that include features such as cost estimators, which provide cost information for the most common services and conditions affecting families today.
Tools like this are easy to use and comprehensive. Employees who use these tools will have a much clearer picture of the actual costs for primary care visits, specialist visits, diagnostic and other medical services, as well as medication costs. Cost estimates are derived from claims databases and use a sound statistical methodology.
With the growing trend toward consumer-directed health care plans, health savings accounts (HSAs) and an increasing amount of medical information in general, there are also coverage advisory tools that can help employees understand how to fund tax-preferred HSAs and organize complex information into easy-to-read reports. By entering some simple financial and health information, these systems can calculate plan options best suited to their specific needs.
There are also extremely powerful and in-depth online research tools which allow your employees to login to secure Web portals to research medical illnesses, do specific hospital comparisons, find quality data, customer satisfaction ratings, success rates and more.
Independent medical experts evaluate all health information; hospital comparisons are based on current, publicly reported data pulled from nationally recognized accrediting agencies.
Education, of course, takes time. But by reinforcing the messages that, a) employees must accept an active role in their health care, b) there are resources available to help and c) they play the most crucial role in reducing costs, everyone stands to gain.
The shift toward employee responsibility has already begun, but employers can make a huge difference in how their work force accepts these changes. Businesses who take advantage of the educational resources available to them from their health plans may even boost employee morale and help employees feel better, not bitter, about the financial responsibility of managing their health care.
Graham Smith is director of marketing and product development for Care Choices, a nonprofit health care organization and a subsidiary of Trinity Health. Care Choices HMO is ranked as #7 among 257 commercial plans nationwide and is the top-rated plan in Michigan, according to U.S. News & World Report/NCQA “America’s Best Health Plans, 2005.”